17 months ago I successfully defended my thesis. Shortly afterwards, I sought a new role. I also felt, in a way, that I had earned one. No work change happened … Continue reading My Plan
Our school year began on a Tuesday. We had four days together that first week, students and me. Four days.
I am a Grad Coach this year. I have my own program and many new faces alongside me everyday. The structure and design of our classes and days is different than my previous years in my school and in an Student Support role.
We began with four days. Students are with me to achieve a credit and to get the necessary supports to graduate on time.
By that first Friday things were messy. Our structure was too loose, our focus a bit too sloppy, our sense of belonging dangled on the edge.
I returned Monday and tried again. Nope.
I was not lacking the effort.
I was lacking sharing hope.
We were lacking our belonging space.
Period two Monday, I pulled the tables together. I gathered the container of rocks.
The students arrived. I asked them to join me at circle. I let them know they could return to their treasured place in the room once we had finished.
Then we defined Gratitude.
We talked of thankfulness. We talked of being grateful for coffee, food, our home, grandparents, friends, school.
I held the jar and took a rock. We each took one rock. The rock wasn’t important. The rocks determine our turn. Once we set our rocks in front of us on the table, our turn is completed. We speak in the order determined by the rocks, not clockwise, not by order or by age, but by rock feel.
From here we shared our gratitude.
In our class, we don’t do much if it doesn’t have a purpose, a curricular link. And I show students the wheres and the hows upfront. And so I did the same with gratitude.
“This week, all we are going to do is share our gratitude. I may ask why and I may not. Next week I will share a rubric and share how you will be assessed on your sharing.”
And then the rocks began to be placed. Grateful for buffalo ranching, for friends, for second chances, for home.
Just like that.
By Tuesday they had it.
By Thursday students had their favourite rocks. They began to ask after the whys, and I followed with the hows.
By Friday we pulled to circle with coffees and peanut butter sandwiches, like we had been here always. And waited. Gratitude too is hard. A student sat in tears, clutching his rock. We waited. We stayed in circle.
See. It is the circle that is sacred, that supports. That is hope.
Years ago I was teaching at an alternate school. My principal had lost her son. She returned to work two weeks later and, sitting around our sharing circle, held a rock, the word gratitude etched on one side.
“Find gratitude each day,” she had said.
That was the year dad had had the stroke. And I had ached for my chance to hold the rock. To feel safe and to cry.
So Friday we sat. Together. Together. And soon someone offered hope. Tears are welcome. “I am grateful our circle is safe.”
And a smile.
I am grateful for our circle.
The new school year is just past three weeks gone.
The second week flew by; I liked almost every moment of each school day. The first week however, simply slogged along; I felt frustrated.
I’m teaching at a different school this year. I am no longer the ‘single story’ high school ELA, Arts Ed and Outdoor teacher, though I am still responsible for these subject areas. My first week was filled with moments when I wondered what I’d gotten myself into. This year I work with students to meet their personal goals, to find hope as our school phrases it; as I see it, to come to honour students’ narratives as stories to live by. Sometimes our days are so busy I don’t feel the end of week approach. Other times there are only a few of us and our space changes frequently; we move at a gentle pace that best fits the story of us. We laugh often. We talk often and we share often.
My transition into this space hasn’t been easy (I wonder every day about how our kids feel as they live this transition. I requested this transition.) There are people and aspects about my other school that I miss very much. Of course, I miss the kids. I miss our regular (and our inquiry based learning never felt ‘regular’) ELA periods and discovery. I miss after school chats and moments when I could find a private silent space during the day just to myself.
That first week I was hit hard by all the missing stories. As well, that first week I also allowed my ego to get the better of me. Those first few days I took to heart comments and questions from others as to how I had come to have my new teaching role and whether I really understood the ‘kids’ I’d be teaching. By mid-week, I had begun to doubt my skills. Worse, by mid-week I had begun to doubt myself. I had stopped honouring my own stories of attending to youth.
However, towards the end of that first week something beautiful happened.
I invited students to gather and I read with them.
I opened a book I love and I read. While I read, I shared with our kids about the story and about myself. As well, I talked with our kids about what I was sharing. I asked our students questions. I paused often. I listened often and soon our students asked questions. I listened. I read, I reread and I read on.
The story didn’t fix everything. However, that moment sure offered a beautiful piece of awareness for me. More importantly, as I listened to our kids make connections, think about the stories I’d shared, and then share their own narratives, and I began to see our kids.
My fear or sadness or worry had prejudiced my instruction of our kids.
Finally, that afternoon, sitting in circle around our table, I felt like I was coming home…
There is this way with narrative: once heard, it can not be unheard.
That afternoon, we attended to our stories. I was beginning again to understand my privileged lens; I had begun to let go of assumptions. Through narrative we had begun to puzzle our way into the space of where we could become curriculum makers.
Our storying space is becoming…
We are slowing attending to our stories. Sharing narratives takes time. I understand that I long to rush, rush, rush into our space and share. But this is my way. This is my voice. I understand too that my story is important. So I share as well. But I am (re)learning to listen here with this new family, learning to attend to different narratives and to trusting a new place.
When I was a child I remember overhearing my educator parents share school stories about the kids in their midst; “Parents send us the best kids they have.”
The next day after I read I looked around the room and realised that I was in the midst of the best kids. Since that moment, I have offered our students every ounce of beauty in me. I have extraordinary expectations for kids. And our kids know this.
The second week flew by. The third week I began to push, to listen and to share.
I am learning that the more I know our kids the more joy I find here.
I am learning that beauty and sadness and joy are part of my teaching story.
These last three weeks I (re)learned that I belong to a family, and the story I share of myself is connected to this family.
I am pretty sure the students are supposed to be learning, but it is my head that hurts from all I am (re)learning.
Sunday afternoon as I sit here in our classroom-storying space, I feel that (re)learning that I am connected to a family is sure a fine story to live by.
The first few weeks of teaching were rough. I made fine connections with the kids, but what would be deemed as ‘my classroom management’ wasn’t happening for me. I was so very confused. I’ve never struggled with management before. I went to my internship seminar and was reminded about how much is expect from me. I shared with my Middle Years peers my fears and they too could not understand me struggling in this area. Heck, my coop was worried. I was worried. Inside I wondered if the dream of teaching and learning alongside kids was possible, ‘Give up, go be a social worker.’ But the internship seminar also reminded me to relax… that weekend I went home and my mom gave me the Keys to the Kingdom.
“Cori, you know how to deal with Jessy Lee right?”
“You know how to handle her friends, right?”
“Are you ever hesitant or nervous when you’re parenting?” I looked sideways at my mom and breathed in very deeply.
That was it.
I can’t be two different people. The trying to separate has never worked for me. I am just no good at pretending. And the kids picked up on it. I went back the next day and walked into the classroom as cori. The kids and I breathed a sigh of relief and I’ve not looked back. After my first lesson I asked Angus what he thought, he remarked, “You were totally different, ya, ya, I don’t know what you did…”
They are all my kids 🙂 And now, phew, we are happily sharing stories, giving hugs, and laughing together…